CD Review of The Devil You Know by Heaven and Hell
Heaven and Hell: The Devil You Know
Recommended if you like
Black Sabbath, Dio, Rainbow
Label
Rhino
Heaven and Hell:
The Devil You Know

Reviewed by R. David Smola

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"
Sludgy, thick, brooding, pounding, and absolutely terrific" is how The Devil You Know should be described. "Hey, this shit is great, these old fucks sure know how to get it done," would also be an apt review. Tony Iommi – who, along with Satan, did in fact invent the Devil’s chord – lays it on thick throughout this 54-minute, deliciously heavy return to form. From the wickedly evil cover (which is frightening) to the thudding proficiency of Geezer Butler’s bass playing, The Devil You Know is a blast from beginning to end. Ronnie James Dio proves that even in his 60s, he can belt out a sermon about the sun, the Devil and Hell with the best of them. As a unit, this version of Black Sabbath sounds fabulous, energized, with Butler and Vinnie Appice holding their own across from the legendary guitarist and vocalist.

There are many out there who will claim it is not Sabbath without Ozzy, which is naïve and short-sighted. Yes, the artist formally known as Ozzy Osbourne – the one who has been reduced to a caricature and self-parodying pitchman – was a huge part of their history, and was the vocalist for the most recognized portion of the Sabbath catalogue, but Iommi has always been and always will be the one constant of the band. He carried the Sabbath torch and delivered some excellent records with a variety of vocalists, including Glenn Hughes, Ian Gillan and the underappreciated Tony Martin. Dio returns to the Sabbath fold (referred to here as Heaven and Hell) to redeem this lineup from their last studio effort, 1992’s decent but uneven Dehumanizer. Lyrically, Dio and the gang edge away from the mystical a bit and offer cynical titles such as "Atom and Evil," "The Turn of the Screw," and "Double the Pain."

"Bible Black" is a fabulous track, starting with some soothing acoustic guitars and a great vocal performance from Dio, who begins the song as a casual storyteller, only to venture into occasional madness as the main character in the song. The track, which describes a man’s descent into insanity because of his obsession with the Black Bible, has the potential to work its way into the company of other Sabbath anthems. It’s a perfect collision of Iommi’s rolling train of a guitar and Dio’s ability to tell a story within a song. Butler and Appice hold their own by creating a muscular bottom end for Iommi to roll over and Dio to soar above.

The mixing and production are pristine; every guitar note, every drumbeat, and every word are clear. There will be no Metallica mixing controversy on this record – it sounds terrific. Like all things Sabbath, there are no guarantees of work after this record and tour, but this whets the appetite for more. Given the band’s history of personnel changes, perhaps the best thing to do is to savor The Devil You Know, because Dio is likely here for a quick visit.

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